Unfinished Business

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Unfinished Business

So, I’m a reader, right? I learned to read at age 3 and ever since I’ve listed “reading” as one of my favorite hobbies. I have a built-in bookshelf in my living room, I work for an organization devoted to literacy and I’m even a member of a book club.

There’s only one problem—I’m a reader, but I’m not exactly a devoted reader. I don’t always finish the books I start. I was thinking about this today while I was at the bookstore. I was looking for my next book club title, when I saw a bunch of familiar titles and thought “why did I never finish these?”

For some of them, I simply didn’t like the book. Others I abandoned because something more interesting came along or I just didn’t finish “in time.”

Whatever the reason, there are over 20 books on my shelf right now that I’ve never finished (this doesn’t even count the books that I’ve never even started…that’s a whole other issue).

Here they are, in no particular order:

1. White Teeth by Zadie Smith—I picked this book up at the recommendation of a fellow conference-goer. The last day of our Conventions there are usually great sales at the publisher booths, and some woman (likely an English teacher) recommended it. It took me 3 or 4 months to get halfway through this book. In the meantime, I read a couple other books and this one just fell by the wayside. I’ve tried to read it a couple times since and can’t quite get into it. Looks good on my shelf, though.

2. Motherless Brooklyn by Jonathan Lethem—Another Convention pick (hey, you can’t beat $3 books!). I think I started to read this on a plane and lost interest once I got home. I actually don’t remember anything about this book except it’s about a detective with Tourettes. It’s supposed to be very good, though.

3. Honky by Dalton Conley This book is on my shelf next to Nigger—the Strange Career of a Troublesome Word. Although I finished the latter book in record time, I could never really get into Honky.

4. Frida: A Biography of Frida Kahlo by Hayden HerreraFrida Kahlo is one of my favorite artists. I had seen an exhibit of her paintings in Chicago and thought I should understand more about her life. Plus, the movie with Salma Hyek was coming out and I wanted to read the book first. This is a HUGE book (over 500 pages) and I read quite a bit of it (in between other books, etc.) I finally gave up at about page 400. And I never saw the movie. I still find her life and work quite fascinating, though, so I still feel comfortable recommending this title.

5. Bel Canto by Ann PatchettA book club pick. I *really* wasn’t wild about reading this book, but I had a free copy and book club was at my house that month, so I felt like I should at least try to make it through. I read about 2/3rds before book club crept up on me (btw—the books are picked 2 months in advance, but always manage to “creep” up on me. Whatever.) Not only did I not make my “due date,” I didn’t really enjoy this book much and the group revealed the ending, so I doubt if I ever pick it up again.

6. I Hope They Serve Beer in Hell by Tucker Max—This is actually a really funny book about a douche-bag frat guy who gets drunk, picks up chicks and basically makes a career out of being a fuckup. I’m not sure why I never finished it. Maybe I was just sick of reading about the kinds of guys that are a dime a dozen in a college town like this.

7. Everything is Illuminated by Jonathan Safran Foer I have tried reading this book 2 or 3 times. The first time was when I bought the book, the second was before the movie came out and the third was just a couple months ago. I can’t get past the first couple of chapters. I don’t know if it’s the writing or what, but I just can’t get into it. I want to like it, but I just can’t do it. I’ll probably try again. I’d still like to see the movie.

8. Old School by Tobias Wolff- Not really sure why I didn’t finish this one, either. It’s a short book. I remember liking it quite a bit. I must have gotten busy or started something else. I should try to finish it.

9. Cocaine: An Unauthorized Biography by Dominic StreatfeildI love non fiction books. I especially like nonfiction that deals with Sex/Drugs/Rock & Roll. I got this one fairly cheap off of Amazon and I don’t think I realized how LONG it is. I got all the way through the history chapters, about the natives of South America chewing on the leaves of the cocoa plant, etc. But then I gave up before I got to the “good” stuff. I think it’s probably a pretty comprehensive resource on the subject, but I didn’t make it to the 20th century. I saw a similar documentary on the History channel once, so I don’t know if I’ll ever get back into it.

10. My Life and Giving: How Each of Us Can Change the World by Bill Clinton– I have both of these books in hardcover. I even pre-ordered My Life. I love Bill Clinton… I mean LOVE him. And his life story is compelling. I read all about his childhood and his early years in the Arkansas Governor’s Mansion, but—once again—I gave up before the “good stuff.”

11. As for Giving, I bought it before a trip and thought maybe it would give me some inspiration. I said as much to a group of co-workers I was travelling with. Once one of them made fun of me, I decided to stick to Us magazine and it’s been at the bottom of my bag ever since. I still plan to read it. And maybe My Life, too.

12. A History of God: The 4,000-Year Quest of Judaism, Christianity and Islam by Karen ArmstrongDuring one of my comparative religion stages, I picked up this book hoping to get an overarching perspective on the concept of God. Again, interesting in theory, but the book spends SO MUCH TIME on describing the whole Yaweah/Yahwah stuff that I got disinterested and gave up. I even tried lending it to my brother, but he gave it back. He wasn’t digging it either.

13. The Second Sex by Simone De Beauvoir—I bought this in college as part of my quest to become more well-read (and a decent feminist). I read about a quarter of it, but honestly don’t remember much at all.

14. Adverbs by Daniel Handler I bought this in Toronto last year. I went into this bookstore and thought it would be fun to buy something in a Canadian bookstore. I didn’t really know what I was doing, so I picked this one up. Lo and behold it’s by the same guy who wrote the Lemony Snicket books. I think it was okay, but I haven’t had any desire to read it after returning home.

15. Then We Came to the End: A Novel by Joshua Ferristhis was highly recommended by a colleague at work and it seemed like the kind of book I’d like, so I brought it on vacation with me last summer. I read another book first and was excited for a change of pace. I simply didn’t like it. By the end of vacation, I probably only had 50 pages to go, but I haven’t picked it up since. I honestly didn’t care enough about the characters or plot to find out how it ended up. Despite its awards and critical praises, I’m not sure I’ll ever come to the end of this one.

Other book club picks
I don’t remember much about these books other than they were book club picks I never finished:

16. Arthur and George by Julian Barnes—This is a fictional account of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and someone named George. I remember very little.

17. Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking by Malcolm Gladwell— This is one of those highly hyped books that are part business, part pop psychology, part research. I typically enjoy such things as they kinda relate to my job and don’t feel like “work reading” I read quite a bit of it and remember having a decent conversation about it, but I never finished. Obviously it didn’t “stick” with me.

18. Reading Lolita in Tehran by Azar Nafisi—I tried hard to finish this book… but didn’t. I don’t think I particularly liking it.

19. Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides—I’m going to read this some day, I promise. I think I picked this up the weekend before we had a book club meeting and didn’t make it past p. 20 before I realized that I needed to actually FINISH this book before discussing it. For that reason, I skipped the meeting as well.

20. The Shining by Stephen King—another “I just didn’t get it done in time” book. I saw the movie and participated in the discussion, so I’m not sure I really NEED to finish the book itself.

21. Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro—just a weird book. I think it has something to do with cloning, but I honestly don’t remember. I’m probably not going to re-visit this one.

Well, there you have it… evidence that I don’t always finish what I’ve started. Am I the only person who has a chronic inability to finish a book? Are there any on this list you think I should make a point to finish? What’s sitting unfinished on your shelves?

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One response to “Unfinished Business

  1. I have a stack of books four feet high that I’ve yet to read all the way through, for the same reasons. I keep putting them off but they’re crying for attention!

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